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Monday, November 10, 2008

Why Moving Terrorists From GITMO to Criminal Trials is Bad and Dangerous Policy

Attempting to move as far away from the Bush administration as soon as possible, President Elect Barack Obama is floating to idea of transferring GITMO detainees and move them into civiian and/or criminal courts.

President-elect Barack Obama's advisers are quietly crafting a proposal to ship dozens, if not hundreds, of imprisoned terrorism suspects to the United States to face criminal trials, a plan that would make good on his promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison but could require creation of a controversial new system of justice.

During his campaign, Obama described Guantanamo as a "sad chapter in American history" and has said generally that the U.S. legal system is equipped to handle the detainees. But he has offered few details on what he planned to do once the facility is closed.

Under plans being put together in Obama's camp, some detainees would be released and many others would be prosecuted in U.S. criminal courts.

A third group of detainees -- the ones whose cases are most entangled in highly classified information -- might have to go before a new court designed especially to handle sensitive national security cases, according to advisers and Democrats involved in the talks. Advisers participating directly in the planning spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans are not final.

The move would be a sharp deviation from the Bush administration, which established military tribunals to prosecute detainees at the Navy base in Cuba and strongly opposes bringing prisoners to the United States. Obama's Republican challenger, John McCain, had also pledged to close Guantanamo. But McCain opposed criminal trials, saying the Bush administration's tribunals should continue on U.S. soil.

The trial of Zacarias Moussaoui should have ended any plans to move prisoners en masse onto U.S. soil and try them in any of our regular court system. Putting them into the criminal court system means giving terrorists criminal rights. This of course is nuts. They aren't criminals but rather illegal enemy combatants in a war. The two classifications have totally different legal consequences.

If terrorists are moved into the criminal court system means giving them the full rights of criminals. This means that if they were ratted out by another terrorist, that terrorist would have to be put on the record to testify. Furthermore, it means that the defendent would have access to all evidence including all classified material that would give our enemies all sorts of techniques and other material we shouldn't be sharing with the enemy in war time. They would also have all the rights of criminals. They could end an interrogation by simply asking for their lawyer. The terrorists would also have to be housed with other criminals. They would have to be isolated and protected since they'd be immediate and significant targets.

Creating a pseudo military court system within the criminal court system would also be a logistical nightmare. It took the Bush administration nearly five years to develop the military court system. Now, the Obama administration would change that into something yet undetermined. If each new administration attempts to create its own policy on trying terrorists, we will never try any of them since it takes years just to develop. Meanwhile, they would have to be housed in our criminal court system. It would be in a maxium security facility, hopefully and presumably. Those folks would also have to be in isolation. This would all be at much greater cost, more of a security risk, and at a massive logistical cost.

All of this lunacy would be done solely because trying these folks at GITMO makes us look bad. Such is the main pitfall of bowing to pressure of the rest of the world and do what makes us look good. GITMO is not perfect but the reality is that there is no viable alternative. Putting terrorists into the criminal court system is shear lunacy. Each and everyone would have the ability to then appeal their cases throughout the federal court system. It allows for any looney judge to make a ruling that would change the dynamic of the war and weaken our defenses. If President Obama does follow through with this, it will cost American lives eventually.


Anonymous said...

Oh no.

They would have rights, like all human beings.

Heaven forbid we treat them like a human being.

mike volpe said...

Not "rights" but criminal rights, or better yet, the rights of an accused criminal. If you put them through the criminal court system, then that is what they have. Accused criminals have the right to end an interrogation. They have the right to have a government warrant before their person, possession, and place of being is searched. They have the right to see all the evidence against them and how it was obtained.

In the 1990's, we treated AQ as criminals. That changed after 9/11.

Do you think that we would have gotten any information from KSM had it not been for water boarding?

These folks aren't criminals. They are illegal enemy combatants. They wear no uniform, they fight for no country, and they attack civilians not military. Yet, they attempt to commit acts of war. those are illegal enemy combatants. They are not supposed to get the same rights as someone accused of murder, arson, of theft, or whatever.

You live in the world of theory. I live in reality. This guts our ability to get intelligence from these folks. With less intelligence, it means there is more of a chance that they will blow up buildings.